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Andrea Stark  / Highline Writing

 

 

Where’s the Beef? Blog Article Source 2009

Andrea M. Stark

 

They were horrified. Twenty faces staring at me, mouths open, eyes full of fear. “What do you EAT?” They managed to force the question out, their eyes running up and down my body as if they suddenly understood something beyond DNA was the reason I am only about 5’1” tall. One of them actually stood up and I got the feeling he was about to run out and buy me a burger, a double. I had accidentally discovered the one phrase that gets the immediate attention of my Armenian-American college students even more than “pop quiz.” They had found me out. I do not eat meat.

 

Unprepared as I was to face their growing concern with my health, I did manage get an answer out to them pretty quickly. Only because it was so perfectly obvious.

 

“Everything else,” I told them.


This of course, had no impact. Their native culture provides daily intakes of meat in amounts that would outweigh me on a butcher’s scale.  This was the day I realized it would benefit me and the progress of my class if I had some prepared statement, documentation and irrefutable information concerning the unnecessary and unhealthy diet of a dedicated carnivore.

 

Now as humans, we don’t really do well as carnivores. No matter how you angle your perspective through your pork-tinted glasses, you are not a carnivore. Evidence of this as fact is well documented. A prominent Swedish scientist, Karl von Linne, states "Man's structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food." The ADA (American Dietetic Association) tells us "most of mankind for most of human history has lived on a vegetarian or Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.”

 

And, grab a mirror for this one; you are your own proof. Here is a true or false test for you, the more false answers you provide, the closer to the truth you become. You have fangs. You sweat through your tongue. You sport large claws. Every day you eat your meat raw, fresh, uncooked. (If  you are answering true, you may want to see some kind of specialist. I’m not sure which kind.) Your intestines are testimony too. They’re 10-12 times your body length, unlike a true-blue carnivore, which walks around with a significantly shorter bunch of tubing so the decaying meat can pass quickly. You also have different saliva than a carnivore, yours is an alkaline saliva with ptyalin to pre-digest grains. Carnivores are ptyalin free.

 

“But I NEED MEAT TO LIVE” my students chant, holding their barbeque skewers up for emphasis. No. You don’t. And you will live longer and healthier lives just by cutting out this ONE food source.

 

How to do this. If you remove meat from your diet right now, the only positive you are removing is protein. The protein can easily be replaced by better sources that can make their happy trek down your extra long colon. 

 

Here’s the beef:

 

A cheeseburger, a four oz patty holds 30 grams of protein.

Three oz of salmon or halibut holds 21 grams of protein.

One cup of cooked soybeans holds 20 grams.

On cup of shredded cheddar cheese 28 grams.

3oz of shrimp holds 21 grams.

2 cups of cooked lentils hold 32 grams.

One cup of almonds holds 27 gram.

One cup of peanuts, 39 grams.

On cup of lowfat cottage cheese, 31 grams.

 

Are you still going to tell me that meat is the only source of protein?

I didn’t think so.

 

Are you still going to tell me that you can’t possibly stop eating it?

I thought so.

 

The commitment is yours to make, the benefits yours to take. To understand more of the benefits, you might want to take a look your own health as well as environmental issues associated with meat eating. Easily accessed websites like GoVeg.com have compelling articles and statistics related to cancer, heart disease and other frightening illnesses, all related to meat consumption. Other environmental websites like PETA have mountains of information that might just make meat hard to swallow, especially articles that expose the cruelty toward beef cattle, veal lambs, pigs and hens.

 

For diet suggestions, stay tuned for my next article, One Week of Veggie Eats! I’ll give you a bunch of recipes and product names, meat replacing and great tasting, to help you see just what it means to be meat free.

 

 

 

Flying into Pilot Season

An Actor's Guide

Article Published in Performink, Chicago’s Theatre Trade Paper

Andrea Stark

 

The pilots are coming, the pilots are coming! How can you prepare? The  best way to prepare for any type of audition is to practice.  How do you practice for something that comes at you once a year, and gives you three days to prepare? 

 

All my students hear me say this every week--”There are really two types of auditions, acceptable and memorable.”  Your goal of course is to be memorable! Keep in mind that most casting directors have their eyes peeled for a very specific look, and a very specific personality for each project. This is especially true with roles for young performers.  When one of our talented young Chicagoland actors gets a wonderful role on anything---the character they are portraying usually resembles the actor in some way---and I don’t mean just physically.  Funny kids will get cast in funny roles just like adult actors.  The difference is adult actors understand the craft of acting better through age and experience.  Young actors can give stronger portrayals of characters like themselves than to characters unlike themselves. This is why I constantly chant “be yourself”,  like a mantra to my private students!  More easily said than done---which is why it is so imperative to get in front of the camera as much as possible. Comfort in front of the camera comes naturally to few actors, child or adult.  But thank goodness--it is something that can be learned!  Learning through auditioning is useful, but it is very seldom that you or you child get good, constructive response to how each audition really went. This is the kind of information that parents are always asking agents and casting directors to surrender. The truth is, they can’t always answer you. As you know, they seldom do!  Agents and Casting Directors are not actors themselves, and it is very seldom that will you find any that are good effective coaches. It is not their job. It is not their focus. They are very good at what they do, which is look for talent--recognize it even it is initial stages in young people --but it is not their job to develop it. They find you and pass you on to a director who casts you and directs you and sometimes --passes you over to AN ACTING COACH!

 

 Acting coaches exist for a specific reason, you don’t have to be out there on your own through all your auditions.  Your agent may be an excellent coach on the spot of an audition, but that is not the purpose of an agent.  They exist to find you and their other hundreds of talented actors jobs-- they usually can’t give you as much personal attention as they would like to, they are too busy!  Agents and casting directors change too, which leaves little continuity in the life of an auditioner.

 

A coach is able to asses your performance and will focus on that---personally. A good coach will help you grow.  A good private coach will be able to help your child do all and more of the following:

 

1) The basics of camera etiquette and how to develop good audition technique

2) How to incorporate relaxation techniques into audition technique

3) How to analyze a script and character ----very very important

4) How to keep the fun in it all! -----very very very important

5) How to keep it all in perspective --really darn important

6) How to analyze the performance afterward and feel good about it. --OK, big important 

     stuff here

 

The deal is, none of these skills are truly innate. Most performers are not given the chance to learn script or character analysis through auditioning.  They are usually given a scene and a general idea of who their character is, and how their character feels in the scene.  Then they are asked to memorize it, they are taped and then after all that they have to come back and do it all for a room full of strangers!  Adult actors stress out over things like this---younger performers feel the stress too! Most elementary and secondary schools don’t even offer theatre classes. On-camera coaching is only available through private coaching or through studio classes.  Actors have to study to learn how to do their art---especially when it is such a personal art. 

 

What will help also is getting coaching with commercial and film auditions all year. When you get an audition, get a pre-audition session with a coach as well.  If the coach is not hooked up with the agency auditioning you--Fax the coach a copy of the script when you get your copy. Even it ifs the day before the audition, many coaches in Chicago are , on-call for audition help. It can make the difference between an acceptable and a memorable audition.  Many of my students have come to me just an hour before their auditions, and it has helped them greatly!

 

Prepare for pilot season by working in front of the camera. Get them at least one or two session a month--whatever is in your budget. Most private coaches in Chicago are not very expensive and honest about how they believe your child should be training.  Make sure you have a reputable coach that truly knows how to work with young people.  Find someone who uses positive language in coaching, and is going to teach acting techniques, not just hand out cold reading ideas and direct. Keep a continuous relationship with your coach over a long period of time and your will develop not only technique but confidence and—you see yourself grow and improve--after all its all on tape!

 

 

 

 

BRINGING WORDS TO LIFE / AND LIFE TO WORDS

                 Poetry in the Classroom

 

E-article for Penelope Torribo, Educator, Puppeteerhttp://www.1worldmusicandpuppets.com/

http://www.penelopetorribio.com/

 

An article for Teachers and Parents

 

 

It’s about expression. It’s about control. It’s about personal freedom. It’s about language.

 

Poetry.

 

Poetry in the classroom. What can it do for your students? Is it just another day of abab rhyme scheme full of clichés?  Is it just another writing exercise? How on earth do you get those students interested in poetry in the first place?  Are the styles of Dr. Suess or Jack Prelutsky the only ones of interest to our younger students?

 

The first topic to tackle is… why have poetry in the classroom? Why write a poem about the Fourth of July in history class, or describe in poetic form what a plant looks like in biology? How could this help with learning and or retention?

 

Well, first and foremost it is an art form that requires that a student think differently than usual. It requires that the student use a different part of the brain. Remember all the left brain vs. right brain materials that were published not long ago? Remember Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain?  Great ideas such as this encourage the use of both sides of the brain for learning.  This supports the idea that approaching school work in different ways and gaining a different perspective on the work can help with comprehension and understanding. It may very well help a student having difficulty with a topic with feel that they can relate to and subsequently comprehend that difficult topic. Students who may not excel in other language arts may find a renewed sense of ability when writing in poetic form. They may be able to express themselves better in poetic form than in any other.

 

I have witnessed that working with poetry helps give new expression to everyday ideas, allows a freedom of expression that is not found in other writing arts, creates a heightened sense of language, and helps develop personal style which can lead to healthy feelings of individuality.

 

All this from poetry? Yep.

 

I currently teach poetry and creative writing to a population of level 14 boys in Southern California. Level 14 boys are one step away from incarceration and represent a small but unfortunately growing population of our American youth. These boys do not have traditional homes and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Suicidal Ideation, Psychosis, and other issues created through abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Some of these boys have difficulty sitting down in one spot for longer than 60 seconds and frequently cannot do even that. These boys are frequently oppositional and verbally abusive. These boys can be quite violent.


These boys are writing poetry.

 

In fact these boys have had their pieces published in a student anthology that sponsors a national poetry contest for students. The best successes have been with the most difficult to reach boys. With minimal coaching they are able to express a great depth of feeling and an incredible range of creative thought. They have found great pride in their work and lasting feelings of accomplishment.

 

 

 

 

Many have written about feelings that had gone unexpressed in therapy and have led them to make great self-discoveries or disclosures that were extremely useful in their lives. These boys not always open to the idea of writing poetry but once introduced to it were very willing to try. They are brining life to words.

 

So now, secondly, how do you do it? How do you get those students interested in writing poetry?

My suggestion is first to read poetry. Get the students exposed to more of what they have already seen. It is likely that they have some of Dr. Suess’,Shel Silverstein’s or Jack Prelutskly’s work. Bring in all those books and let the students see how prolific these writers are. These works never seem to fail to get the attention of any audience. Have the students read these poems aloud and bring the words to life! Introduce poetry in the manner that is most easy for your students to digest. Then start to bring in different forms of poetry. Show them Haiku, show them Sonnets, show then Epic, show them modern. Let them know that poetry is a highly valued art form that is as old as any other art they know, possibly older. Show them poems written by students their age and older. Let them know about poetry contests for their age range and get them inspired!

 

Then, let them write. There are so many exercises that make writing poetry fun and accessible to the younger student. First poetry exercises can be as simple and lovely as writing a description in single word sentences of their favorite toy, or animal. They can create a Name Poem, where each letter of their name is the first letter of a descriptive word about them. They can write about a feeling and describe it with colors and shapes. They can write a poem for a particular holiday. They can write a traditional Haiku and count syllables and sounds. (a good exercise for any age)

 

Following a set of rules and coming up with a creative product is the challenge of poetry. Just as the creation of a watercolor, or any specific visual art technique requires adherence to a set of rules, so do certain forms of poetry. Using a structure often makes it much easier for a student. Rather than offering “Write about anything you wish”, which can be daunting, offering the tight styles of traditional Haiku can give students an alluring challenge--a challenge that can be very fun to tackle.

 

Writing about a feeling is also a good introductory exercise. The form can be open or you can challenge them with a style. A theme for the day can be an inspiring idea. The students can provide the theme or you can be prepared with one. Examples of themes are: Seasons, Favorite Music, World Peace, Love, Friendship, A Life Experience, etc.

 

Some students will need coaching and assistance. I have actually been the scribe for some of my students and had them simply speak what they were feeling about a particular theme or emotion. I then show them what they have dictated and they entitle it. I also have them work on editing it into a form if they wish. They have complete control and are never edited. I will also ask them to take a descriptive sentence they have written and pare it down into images and emotions. In this way I can get them to understand the basic notion of this form of poetry in comparison prose.

 

The greatest element about poetry and its use in the classroom is that poetry is an art form that specifically uses written language. In an age where students are graduating from High School and are unable to write a coherent sentence, poetry can be of great use. If a student can look at a modern poem and understand the minimal use of language that it features, then he or she will likely be able to tackle other language forms with better alacrity.

 

I emphatically encourage all teachers to include poetry in their curriculum. It can only enhance the learning process and help to create new understandings. It truly does bring words to life and life to words. In addition to all that, it is incredibly fun.

 

  

(For information about a wonderful on-line poetry contest created by teachers for students, please take a look at Creative Communication. I have found it to be useful and powerful in the teaching of poetry. (I am not a part of this organization.) There is also on-line information about Teen Poetry Slams, which are amazing!)

 

 

 

KIDS FIRST  Series Articles by Actress / Coach Andrea Stark 

This Week: SAYING NO TO AUDITIONS  PerformInk, Chicago

 

JUST SAY “NO THANKS”

 

But no one wants to say “No.”  No one wants to even say “No thank You.”  It is simply not part of most actors’ vocabularies, particularly young adult actors who are willing to do just about anything.  Even younger actors, teens and children, feel the need to repeatedly say “yes!” each time the phone rings or the pager buzzes another opportunity.

 

The material comes via fax, or a quick run to the agency and voila, another chance at stardom, or at least one more deposit in the college fund!  Very good motivation to go do that audition!  Certainly too, it is “the most fun-thing-ever-in-the-world”, as one young actress once told me.  Most material encountered in Chicago by very young actors is commercial and digestible.  Even if the young actor hates hot cereal, they usually have no qualms about doing a commercial for it.  But sometimes in legitimate theatre and commercial work you encounter a script that is entirely something else. 

 

Certainly almost everyone has worked on scripts that they have described as stupid, poorly written, unbelievable, or even pointless.  But encountering a script that is frightening, or disturbing, is something to consider much more deeply.  How important is each audition?  Just as we all have different answers to that question, we all have differing levels of tolerance with materials.  As I have repeatedly said to parents and young actors, if you don’t want to audition for something, for any reason, then don’t.

 

Holly Womack, of HollyRic and Heitz Casting, agrees that, “ Children should have the uncompromised right to say no to an audition if the script makes them uncomfortable.  For some kids just going to an audition is scary enough.”  When she sees a child that is uncomfortable and obviously would rather not be there at all,  her “... heart does go out to them.”

 

I spoke to Jaclyn Greenberg (formerly of Johnson-Liff Casting in NYC) and her reactions are very much in line with our Chicago casting people.  She feels “Parents may be afraid to say 'no' to an audition because they worry that the casting director won’t call them again if they decline the opportunity.  Not true!  The casting director has to find the best person for each role, and whenever a particular role doesn't feel right to a young actor, they should 'pass' on the audition and rest assured that another role will come along that's a better fit."

 

 Auditions frequently come fast and furious and give young actors only a few days to prepare.  What must always be in place in the fast - paced life of auditioning is the knowledge that not every audition is for everyone.  Children need to be  informed that they have the right to decline certain auditions, or they may not exercise it.  Or...they may exercise it in alternative ways.   For Catherine Head of Jane Alderman Casting, “It is very apparent when a child does not want to be there. It is not very overt, but, you can tell if a child has no joy in being there.”

 

Parents sometimes feel at a disadvantage as they cannot witness the actual audition.  And certainly some parents may not see the disinterest as it may only surface in the actual audition.  However, as parents, you have the advantage of knowing your child!  You can watch your young actor for subtle and/or overt signs of disinterest:

 

--A child that usually is a quick study may be procrastinating about learning the  material, or seem to have difficulty memorizing it.

--They may approach it with a different style than usual, such as reading it only during the day, or only when other family or friends are present

    or absent.

--They may become ill, and suffer with anything from a stomach ache to

    a sore throat.

--They may ask to quit the business.

--They may not perform well at their audition which unfortunately may hurt them career wise more than not attending the audition.

 

These are fairly obvious clues that can easily be addressed by simply having a conversation about the audition, and by letting the child know that is it perfectly acceptable to not attend it.  Then certainly it is important to address the material, and to discover exactly what is disturbing about the material.

 

I have encountered instances where the problem was with the language, which may in some cases be remediable.  Many of the scripts young actors encounter have young characters swearing and many of our young Chicago actors do not like this. They are not interested in using the language and it will get in their way. They won’t be able to invest in the character or the material and if they can invest by simply changing a damn to a darn, ask your agent if that is permissible. In one instance a young girl auditioning for a film felt uncomfortable with the word “Father.”  She could not invest in the scene because she felt that saying “Father” was “weird.”  By attaining permission to change it to “Dad”, she was able to invest in the script.  Most casting directors will permit minute changes unless the language is vital to the character.  But you must ask your agent, who will in turn ask the casting director.  It is necessary to understand that asking permission to change even one word in a commercial script or theatre script can be a very big deal.  Both require permission but scripts are most often not to be changed.  Leave that job to the writers, and simply decline the audition.

 

 One young man came into an audition with such a horrified look that when asked how he was feeling, he was barely able to answer.  He then broke down into tears and said he didn’t want to read the script because it “wasn’t right...he didn’t talk that way.”  He was immediately comforted and then allowed to make up his own script, but would not leave the taping room until promised that his parent would not be told about his crying. He was afraid he would get into trouble.  This of course is very disturbing.  The boy obviously had no interest in auditioning, and should not have had to suffer such stress.  Extreme situations such as this can give young actors very negative or warped impressions of what the business is all about.

 

Another incident involved a young girl who is ordinarily quite animated and alive in audition looking tired and depressed.  Upon questioning her it was discovered that the script she had memorized reminded her of her Aunt, who at that time was quite ill, actually suffering from the same disease as a character in the script.  After handing tissues all around, a quick game of improvisation served as her audition.  Her relief was palpable.  She should not have been at that audition.  She did not know she was allowed to say no and she was too young of an actress to understand how to separate herself from the character.

 

Even more intense problems can arise for young actors with audition material.  Some material you will instantly regard as inappropriate for your child. If you do, be certain to explain to your child why you feel it is inappropriate. You are teaching your child what is worthy of their talents and defining for them morals and etiquette.  In a way you are helping to define the future of theatre and film.  It really is this important.  Talk to them about things such as unnecessary nudity, inappropriate language or behavior, or anything that you find yourself unable to support in the script.  If they are not allowed to swear at home, why are they allowed to swear on screen, or behave in ways other than those you have carefully defined for them? It is of great import to understand ( so I repeat ) that very young actors or older child actors with little or no training in technique have difficulty separating themselves from the characters they portray.  They have the great gift of the unleashed imagination. 

 

Problems arise with frightening audition material as well.  Just recently in their casting work on The Exorcist, Jane Alderman and Catherine Head of Jane Alderman Casting, had some girls decline the audition.  One girl declined after seeing the movie in preparation for the audition.   Catherine Head wants parents and children to know that  “ We respect the decision to say no to an audition and it does not color our view of them for the future.”  This is a great example of a parent giving a child the opportunity to research the material, understand it, develop and opinion of it, and exercise their right to say “no thanks!”  Catherine Head stated that, “It is very important for parents to have an open and honest channel of communication with their child about acting in general and about the material at hand.”

  

It is not only in commercial work that these problems arise but in stage work as well. Recently the Steppenwolf Theatre produced the interestingly haunting one act play, Wolf Lullaby.  The central character of the play is young (preteen) girl accused of killing a small boy.  In the script the girl is emotionally abandoned by her mother, who through realizations of her own, hands her daughter over to the police.  Audience members have ample reason to believe that the girl was led to this crime due to the neglect she suffered at home.  For a young actress, this is certainly quite a challenge.  I had the opportunity (as an independent coach unaffiliated with the Steppenwolf Theatre) to privately coach several of the young actresses auditioning.  Each one found the script not only a challenge to act, but a challenge to think about, and to live with.  Two of them had nightmares about the script, but were determined to audition.  All of the parents I encountered were letting their daughters audition only because the girls had such an intense interest in the work. They were counting on the interest overriding the fear.  Some of the girls did not at first admit to any fear or feelings about the character,

as they were afraid their parents would decline the audition.  But they found that when they did talk about their fears, they felt enough relief to focus on the work, and were supported by their parents.

 

Phyillis Schuringa, Casting Director of the Steppenwolf Theatre said , “We were sure that this piece would effect some of the young actresses.  I made sure I spoke with the parents about the play and that they all had the opportunity to read it.  They needed to be able to talk to their children about the play.  The parents and the actresses needed to know what they would have to go through every night.  We were very sensitive toward that.  And I think this is true of everything that they (young actors) look at.  They need to understand the pieces to be able to develop an opinion about them.  Once all of the information is provided, parents or guardians need to trust that the children can be honest about how they feel. “

 

Adult actors are frequently haunted by their characters, certainly young actors are as well.  Theatre is a powerful art form, that is one reason we love it so well.  With certain scripts it is very important to make certain that your child understands the story and is genuinely interested in working on it.  Talking about the script, understanding the character and learning acting techniques are all tools that can help young actors with any script.  You may not realize the need for these practices until you encounter a difficult or disturbing script.  Even with lots of support a child still must have the right to skip the audition, another one is already on the way.  Auditioning should be fun!

 

Of utmost import, take time to remind your young actor that they have control over their auditions in terms of choice.  You certainly do and will need to make decisions for them, but understand they may not even tell you of their dislike for material, not out of anything but the feeling or misunderstanding that each audition is very very important for them.  I can not think of one child actor I have known that does not believe that each audition is crucial.  Just last week while (as a favor)  taping a private student for a film audition I had to stop him, turn off the camera and gently ask his serious and admittedly nervous self to remember that this audition was “not his life or his career.”

 “ But,”  he reasoned, “it is...if I get this job, then I will get more work and ...”     This lovely guy is just ten years old. He has incredible and supportive parents that only, truly only have him audition for what interests him.  His whole philosophy about this particular audition came from his intense love of the material (Shakespeare) on which he was working.  He was so desirous of doing well, that he “freaked himself out,” and he wanted to be there!

 

Parents have philosophies about working and auditioning that are valid and necessary guideposts for child actors, but it is imperative that the opinions and desires of the child be listened to and acted upon. Talk to your agent, your acting coach, your casting director (if appropriate) and get their opinions about the scripts you encounter.  All Chicago Agents and Casting Directors care very deeply about the welfare of our young actors, not just the people I was fortunate to speak with about this article.   Kids first, not scripts, success, or fame!

 

Andrea Stark is a Jeff-award winning actress who can currently be seen pushing Tide and Walmart with four great young Chicago actors who play her children in the P&G spot.

 

 

Article # 14-- A. STARK                                                           

 

In speaking with Catherine Head of Jane Alderman Casting about my last published article,  “ Saying No To Auditions”  Catherine and I spoke about a number of topics regarding the business.  She agreed that a very important topic to discuss is:

 

What Happens When You Don’t Get That Role?

 

It is not easy.  Your prepare for an audition, works with your coach, memorize multiple pages of copy, and most importantly—you really want that role. Maybe it is the greatest script you have ever encountered, perhaps the character breakdown actually describes  you. You are so excited, this could be the big one!  You are more motivated than ever before and can’t stop talking about the audition.  Nothing you can do can get your mind off this audition, you are consumed with desire.  The audition happens.  You come out of the casting office beaming and proud of your performance.

 

“They said they would call in three days if they needed to see me again,”  you repeat to yourself.  The most irritating part of the business is the waiting!  Then three days roll by without any contact from your agent or the casting director.  You are desperate to call your agent and see what is going on, but know that calling will probably lead to nothing more.  Perhaps you do call your agent.  They tell you that they have heard nothing regarding the audition.  “Better luck next time,” they say cheerily.  “ I am sure the audition went well.”  They assure you, “The casting people must be going for a different look. ”   You think,  how can your agent be so calm, so cheery, so dumb!  You are perfect for that role! You kicked butt in  audition!  You start to doubt your ability, to act and to judge your own performance. But you feel you did the best you could. You do not get the job.  Nothing seems fair.  Acting is insane.

 

You did do a great  job in the audition and that is all you need to do, all you CAN do!   Casting people appreciate that, agents appreciate that,  and the rest of the casting world thinks that is great.  But---- that is where the control ends for you.  You are this tiny piece of the big snarly world of casting and you can control only your tiny piece of it.  Doing your best in audition is the goal. This is a goal that you can ALWAYS can meet.  It may lead to getting the job but getting the job is not wholly dependent upon that.  So many other factors go into the decision making process of  casting that keeping perspective on each audition is crucial to the emotional well being of both adult and child actors.  Sandra Grand longtime Chicago Casting Person and Director urges all actors to understand, “ There are things you can control and things you can not,  your performance is all you can control--just do your  best.”

 

 

Especially understand that the reason they did not get the job has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU PERSONALLY.   Wow, how on earth are you going to do that?   Well, first start with the real facts of commercial or non-commercial theatre, a big business world that is complex and in constant flux.  Disappointment is a part of this world, just as feelings of pride and joy are parts.  Holly Womack, of HollyRic and Heitz Casting says to remember, “ It is not personal at all, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. There can be incidents where the casting specs (character specifications) change the day before the casting session!”

 

1) Casting Choices are frequently made based on physical appearance.

  Perhaps you are the very personality that Tristar is looking for to in a new feature film. The well-known actress already cast in the film has bright red hair and lots of freckles.  Should you be very differently colored and not  “match”  this actress audiences would have difficulty believing that this actress and you are related.  You won’t get this role.  It is not just a matter of hair color, there certainly is plenty of Miss Clairol to go around, but  there are skin tone and eye color are factors that must be taken into consideration as well.  Ric of HollyRic and Heitz Casting says to understand, “Maybe they want someone with green eyes and God gave you blue ones!”

 

 

 

2) Perhaps your personality the complete antithesis of the character.  You are an extrovert and very social and the character is painfully shy and introverted.  Your best interpretation of the script still reveals a brassy spirit --even with coaching. Yes you can act but in film and commercial, think of TYPE. So for your best chance reveal what you truly are and setting that free.  There will be some one who is naturally an extrovert and that is what the director and producer want 99 percent of the time. Think of very well know actors who seem to do the same character over and over….they are a type. They play a type. Well, you are too, you just aren’t as nationally know….yet!

 

Sandra Grand reminds us, An audition doesn’t validate you as an actor or a person.  It only validates your appropriateness for the role in the project.  Not only is your skill and talent being evaluated, but the casting people are also trying to fit you into a world that they are creating for the script.  Sometimes you are just too tall or too short.”  It is that simple.

 

3) Casting ideas frequently change during the casting process:

Age ranges change, physical appearances change, and sometimes characters are completely removed from scripts.  Scripts are constantly being rewritten, it is rare for scripts to remain as you see them for your audition.   The script writers and  director decide that the single mom needs a sister rather than daughter, or needs a boy friend years older than originally thought, or suddenly has no family at all!

 

4) Casting projects can simply die:

Theatre needs financial backers and if anything, I mean anything happens to the

funding, it can just die in the process.  The casting and production people may have adored you, they still will, they just simply have no job to offer.

 

5) Casting choices are frequently done by “committee” :

The director does not always have the final say.  The director has an entire production team, well-known actors already cast, and writers to please with casting choices.  If any one of these people feel uncomfortable with the directors choice, the director may have to alter their choice.  You may be in your third callback before you meet all these people and get dropped from the choice list.  Holly Womak says please remember, “ Our clients have clients of their own to please!”

 

5) REALIZE THAT YOU ARE USUALLY TOTALLY UNAWARE OF ANY OF THE ABOVE, OR FIND OUT FACTS MONTHS OR YEARS LATER.

 Remember, you are one little piece of the casting business and you can control only how well prepared, emotionally and intellectually, you are for an audition.  The audition itself is what you control.

 

6) Understand that each audition is not just about that moment.  You are building a good relationship with your agent and with casting directors each time you audition for them.

 

Catherine Head of Jane Alderman Casting feels it is of great import to realize that,   Every audition experience is valuable. Not getting a role is not what it is all about.  Each audition helps to build your experience and your reputation as a good performer.  Every audition is part of this bigger picture.”

 

 Summing it all up…

 

The advice from all the casting people in Chicago is this:

 

Put it all into proper perspective. Each audition is an opportunity for you to show your talent, your personality and your ability to be on camera, your ability to be social and artistic.

 

This is a crazy business, in no other art do you get the opportunity to have six “interviews” in one  month.

 

If you get tired, frustrated, TAKE A BREAK.. Book out for a week. Your mental health is paramount.

 

Keep yourself artistically fulfilled. Do stage work, do personal projects. If you have any other art you love, keep doing that even if it feels “on the side.”

 

You need an artistic and emotional outlet to keep yourself balanced. Join an actors support group or start one. Just go out and have coffee with two other actors and kvetch about the business. No one but other actors truly understand the insanity.

 

Finally, reward your self for surviving in the business. Tell yourself that talent is real even when you are not the chosen talent. And also, call me! Stop by the Theatre Office, I’m always glad to see you !

 

Andrea Stark is a Jeff award winning actress currently running a national Tide/Walmart spot.

She too tries to not take it all personally…

 

 

 

 

AIDS RIDE CHICAGO UPDATE for all supporters of Team Tickner

 

Your on spot correspondent here, Andrea Stark, sending you today’s update from Team Tickner, aka Iron Thighs.

 

THURSDAY DAY 4!

The Longest Day (with hills too)

 

For a little reality…let’s make it sound like we are doing it….Ready?

 

You get up at 4:30, yes, that is am, stretch your muscles that have already ridden over 300 miles and step outside of your tent.  The air is cool and you are hoping for a good weather day, this is the longest day on the ride....it could take 12 hours to get to the next camp site--plus ITS HILLY!  OH JOY!  You see other riders stumbling and yawning their way toward breakfast. NINE HUNDRED tents, full of sore muscles.  Already several people have suffered with such severe heat stroke that they had to be removed from camp in ambulances, one rider was in an accident with another pedestrian on a bicycle. Bascially, your lookin at 2000 sore butts. You carbo-load your bod with breakfast,  break down your tent, stow all your gear in your pack and take everything to your gear truck. Then you get on that bike and go go go!

 

Camp is packed up and moving toward the next site by 7:00, yes that IS still am. About 300 crew (volunteers) are driving that fleet to the next site so they can start: cooking, setting up the med tent, the bike tech tent, the shower trucks, the sink trucks, the bathroom trucks, the 12 step tent, any other kind of tent you can think of, and the sound stage for the nightly entertainment.....still all the time cheering the riders on!

 

When you hit camp that night, it is all there ready for you, and you are ready to...wait in line!  For everything!  Its all about waiting in line with 2000 other riders to get your stuff done so you can get that tent set up and get in that sleeping bag.  No noise is allowed after 9:30 not that anyone has much energy to MAKE noise…The entertainment is over and everyone goes to bed!  Then you get up and do it again! Yahoo!

 

Oooh but hang on intrepid riders…there is a golden ticket. You may happen to have your tent number read in a raffle set up by the crew...and they break down your tent!  Which did happen to ol' Iron Thighs last night!  The Tick is Slick!

 

A side report from The Tick : His tent mate, a hulking 6 foot something guy---DID NOT TRAIN!  He says his legs are aching......hmmm.

 

Anyway, that's your day, and, the scoop from the Ride Front....Pretty good going so far. Our Hero called in at 5:00 this morning and will turn his phone on when he gets into camp tonight--If he remembers..... SO if you have the #, you can try!

 

AU REVOIR! ADIOS! TSCHUSS!

 

Your faithful ride correspondent!

 

 

 

 

CAT RENT! A New Musical for owners...

 

 Published for Arvada Town News, Newspaper, Colorado 

 

Billie is upset.  He has been searching for weeks.  My husband and I supply him with the classifieds every weekend but all he seems to be able to get himself to do is, lie across it, or hide under it.  Still I know he is reading it.  I can tell by the way he so easily lapses into a depression so deep he actually falls asleep on the paper!   God it is hard to find a job, especially if you are middle aged.  I don’t have the heart to tell him that age discrimination is not the largest bag of litter he’ll have to jump across.  It is just plain difficult to find a job.  Especially when you are a big gray tabby pushing nine. 

 

Really, he has never even considered working.  It’s just never been necessary.  We have always been able to pay for all his needs.  But, now that we are leaving Chicago and moving to the Denver/Boulder area, he is going to have to pull a little more of his 14 pounds.  For the first time in his life he has to pay rent.  Now we have talked about it, and he indicated that he was interested in taking on this kind of responsibility.  He didn’t want us to feel he was taking advantage of our love.  I felt so terrible for him when we went over the math -- he really is much better with words than numbers. I think. He professes to write Beat poetry. He hasn’t yet shared any with us.

 

Anyway, his eyes nearly left their furry sockets when we multiplied 12 months by $20.00 month.  $240.00 is a big chunk of change to a feline with no career.   We tried to make it easier for him to understand.  “It’s like 240 catnip mice (without tax), or 125 cans of tuna, or 18 bags of Nutro Max hypo-allergenic cat food.”  He understood a bit better then.  I think it was the tuna that really got him motivated.   So he is even at this very moment, sleeping on the classifieds.  I don’t know what to tell him.  We will have to loan him the money until he gets a job because there is just no way he will get one through the apparent technique of osmosis that he is currently employing.  His little sister is only two, so we don’t feel she should have to pay for her rent just yet.  He seems to agree with that, although he has made no offer to secure a job that would bring in $40.00 a month. 

 

It is really amazing that their combined rent over the course of one year is $480.00, just a mere $155.00 less than our monthly rent.  The problem that I have with the “pet rent”  idea is that he and his sister don’t truly benefit from the expense.  He has to actually develop a career and he doesn’t even get to use the clubhouse, or the pool. He can’t even legally walk down the hallway to play on the stairs.  He won’t be using the stove, or the hot water, and he really doesn’t need electric heat.

 

Basically, he is being discriminated against although I have not brought this to his attention.  I don’t want him to feel unwelcome in his new home.  He heard that Colorado was wide open spaces and liberal thinking.  He knows there is a large number of left- over “hippie cats” from the 60’s.  He intends to look them up.  We have bought him a necklace of love beads to inspire him.

 

I also have not told him that his rent is to cover damage that might occur, I guess on a monthly basis, to the premises.  He would not understand that in the least.  When he is not reading the classifieds from a reclined position, he is working quietly under the bed on his poetry. He has not yet let us see his progress, and he stays under that bed for sometimes up to 13 hours a day.  He always professes to be too tired to let us review it at night, and he sleeps all night with us.  I have personally, in 9 years of research, not yet been able to detect any damage done by an immobile cat body.  I am certain, however that there must be some cumulative damage that is measurable probably by highly technically advanced machinery available through government supply catalogs. 

 

Certainly there is some basis of good reasoning for the charging of monthly rent to a cat.  I told my husband, “thank God we don’t have any kids!  Imagine what the rent must be for them!”

 

Andrea Stark is an actress and a writer living in Chicago and Arvada.

 

 

 

PerformInk Article # 1

 

Acting classes for Kid Actors?

Questions for parents to consider....AND OTHER STUFF!

Andrea Stark

 

Why acting? Why not sculpture or painting? What is is about your child that attracts them to the performing arts?  See if you can define what it is that they find so appealing. Discovering this may help you choose the right class for them.

 

Is their thrill focused on performing for an audience? See if you can get them a class works toward a performance.  Are they in love improvisation? Find a class that specifically works on theatre games and improvisation.  Do they love to create their own pieces of theatre ?  Sign them up for a performance class that uses the members as the writers and performers.  If they are experienced commercially, you may want to get them back to basic honest acting in a theatre class. If they have no idea why they like performing, or if you are interested in discovering a new activity for them you may want to get them into a basic beginning class. 

 

Of course, it is not as simple as that if you have no experience with the world of theatre classes.  You are interested in finding a studio or school where your child will be taught the basics of theatre allowed to grow at their own pace while being given experiences with theatre games, improvisation and scripted material. Yikes!  How do you find this fabulous place?  You certainly may ask your agent, if you don’t have an agent you still can give a call and ask for a reference.  If your child has a friend that has taken classes somewhere you can get a first hand report of the program. The Yellow pages,  Publications such as The  Chicagoland Acting Modeling and Dance directory and PerformInk are good sources.  Your childs school or park district may be able to help you. 

 

Once you have some places to research just pick up the phone and call! They should be very willing to give you any information you may require, and probably have materials they could sent to you.  Simply speaking to the teachers themselves or the program directors will give you enough information.

  

You will need to know only a few specific things about the studio or school to reveal its worth. Ask them about their teachers. Who are they and what are their qualifications for teaching theatre. Do they hold degrees in theatre or education? Are they performers? How long have they been teaching children? Ask similar questions that you would ask of a new grade or high school.

 

Is it important for the teachers to have degress in theatre?  I think it is, these are people who have spent their time and energy in getting the training they need to train performers. These are the true educators of theatre. Certainly there are fine teachers who do not have degrees but do have significant teaching experience.  How important is it to have a teacher that is a working actor?  It certainly is not necessary, but can be beneficial on many levels.

 

 With children I especially am interested in having them taught by degreed teachers who specifially have an interest and a background and a talent for working with young performers.  With adults it is rather a different situation.  Many of the great teachers of adult actors today do not have degrees in theatre but have had incredible lives in the theatre and posses wonderful talents for teaching.

 

Children need creative and positive reinforcement in their theatre classes. Theatre can be a very personal experience for your child and help them to discover who they are.  Most Master of Fine Arts programs in Acting and all Theatre Education degree programs provide teacher training skills that define the needs of the young performer.  There are enough good and well trained theatre professionals with classes for children  in Chicago, you can be choosey! 

 

Find out the goal of the program.  Any program worth its salt has a reason for existing other than taking your money. Chicago has some fine teachers and wonderful programs to offer, each with a slightly different mission.

 

Some programs may have more of an emphasis on improvisation, while others are interested in creating new scripts for young people. This is where you can match your child’s love of theatre with a program.

 

Most acting classes in world begin with theatre games and improvisation.  Viola Spolin, truly the grandmother of theatre games invented a course of study for actors in her book Improvisation for the Theatre.  I would be so bold as to say that almost every acting school in the USA has programs that are somehow based on Viola’s games. Most of the master teachers in theatre today started out  by throwing themselves in the wonderful work of theatre games. Chicago’s own Second City started with Viola’s techniques!

 

 Most useful and exciting classes progress from using many different games and improvisation to using some form of script.  Poetry and/ or original compositions by the students are popular with both beginning and advanced students.

 

TheYouth Ensemble Theatre has three performance ensembles that  create their own performances by creating scripts from literature. 

 

Younger performers seem to do best with more improvisation than script. Good teachers will know when to introduce written material to a class.  If you have a 6-8 year old, most of they classes you will find will probably focus on theatre games and improvisation.This is appropriate, especially with beginners. You may find that the older the student, the more responsibilty with written text.  This too is quite appropriate.

 

It is inappropriate to take a child, beginner or advanced and just give them scripted material to discipher.  Do not imagine that your young child, regardless of experience, should be in a class that focuses soley on script study.

 

What you may not know about theatre games is how well thought out they truly are, and what their purpose truly is.  The basic idea behind each game or improvisation is to lead the student to discover their: imagination, focus, ability to work with and for others, ability to work alone, ability to take risks,  confidence, listening skills, verbal and physical skills. 

 

There will be no time or money wasted on a good theatre class that is primarily theatre games. Your child may make discoveries about themself they would not find in any other art form.  Understand that theatre games and improvisation will be part of their continued career in theatre, through any undergraduate or graduate program, and professional adult training program they may venture into.

 

Ask what ages are taught at the program.  Most classes are divided by age.  A good division is 6-8, 9-12, and 13-teen.  If you have a child you consider to be an advanced 8 year old, you certainly can ask if they work with the 9-12 group. Conversely if you have a 9 year old who is more comfortable with a younger crowd it may be appropriate to start them out with the 6-8 year olds.  Any good teacher or program director will be glad to speak with you about moving from age group to age group.  However you must keep in mind that the import is upon getting your child into the most comfortable situation.  It can be very stressful for a student to be pushed beyond their capacity too early.  If a program director or a teacher does not agree with your assesment of your childs progress or if you are insistent upon putting a younger yet experienced  child into an older class.  Make sure you really have an indepth conversation with the teachers.  You may very well not know exaclty how your child is progressing, or how the program will work for your child.  Generally beginners truly need to be with their own age groups.

 

Even with all this info and opinion the most salient point Ican make as a theatre educator and studio director is--- is your child feeling good about themselves in the class, are they having fun, do they know new things about theatre? Naturally you can’t know this until the class is well underway, but you can do the research necessary to make certain they are in a reputable program with educated and experienced teachers.